Sept. 1, 2004
Junior J.R. Lemon is featured in the second installment of a weekly column of player reports that lets Cardinal Commitment readers in on the thoughts of Stanford football players. The Cardinal open the 2004 season against San Jose State on September 4.
CC: Now that the team is in the last week of camp, what is the attitude of the squad as the season draws closer?
JL: The attitude is definitely on a positive level. We're being very productive on both sides of the ball. We're making huge strides offensively and we're doing a good job of stopping things defensively. It hasn't been as one-sided as it has in the past. I think that's due to more experience on the line, in particular. Guys are coming off the ball and we're running plays that fit them well. In the backfield, we're doing a good job of picking up blitzes and the quarterbacks are doing a great job of getting the ball to the receivers. It's a snowball effect, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do.
CC: Individually, how has your preparation in this year's camp differed from past seasons?
JL: I think it's been a progression for myself and I take it very seriously. My freshman and sophomore year was more about just playing. It's always going to be fun for me because I love the sport, but now I'm taking it much more seriously. I make sure that I'm responsible for certain things, and knowing everything that concerns my position makes me well equipped to go out to battle. I don't really define myself as a leader, but I do want to be someone who's accountable. I just work very hard at being prepared.
CC: Kenneth Tolon and you formed a great partnership in the Cardinal backfield last season. What is it about your partnership that makes you two a great 1-2 punch?
JL: I think we make each other better because we have different styles of running. If I can learn something from him and he can learn something from me, it will make each of us a more complete back. We both want to get on the field, but I think we complement one another. If one of us is tired, the other one can get in there and there's not a drop-off. In the past, with guys getting hurt, it's ended up just being Kenny and myself. So, we try to do a good job of taking care of each other because running backs take so many hits.
CC: You carried the ball 34 times in the win over Arizona State last year. Does getting large amount of carries in a game help keep you in a rhythm as the game progresses?
I'm the type of back that gets stronger as the game goes on. I don't like getting three carries here or two carries there. I definitely get a feel for the defense if I can get a lot of carries and I can kind of anticipate where they're going to go, or what they're going to do and what kind of style they're playing. As far as carries are concerned, I love to get the larger number or however many it takes to become effective.
CC: As a player with a large amount of experience, do you see yourself as a mentor for younger players?
JL: From my standpoint, it's really just business. I have to get out there and get my work in so that I can become better player than I was when I stepped on the practice field the previous day. If guys look to me for an example, I'd tell them to do the same thing.
CC: Which new running backs are making an impact in camp?
JL: As far as freshmen go, I think Ray Jones is going to be a great player. He sees things really well at a young age. Jason Evans is a different type of back, but I think he'll do a good job when given the opportunity.
CC: Being able to catch the ball out of the backfield is one of your strengths. Is that skill emphasized in the offensive system?
JL: Our offense gives people the opportunity to move around and I think it's one of my strengths. I think I can catch the ball as well as any one of our receivers. I spent a lot of time working on that in the summer, participating in seven-on-seven drills. I think that gives the coaches another dimension to work with in the offense. Our ability to use the backfield for different flat routes has been very beneficial to us. A lot of the time, linebackers will drop back and we can get underneath to gain five or six yards and help move the chains.
CC: Do you feel like your passionate play serves as a spark for the offense?
JL: I play a certain way in that I like to hit people as much as possible. It's just a different style of football that people play from different parts of the country. Where I'm from (Georgia), people want to take you out. I call it having some "dog" in you. Some players play more finesse games and hopefully you can match that with everyone else's game, but when it's time to hit someone you've got to do it. That goes if you're playing receiver, running back, line, quarterback or anywhere else. From that standpoint, I guess that's what might be called playing passionately or providing a spark.
CC: What type of goals have you set for yourself and for the team this season?
JL: My biggest goal is just to win. That's what it's all about. When we win, all the other things will take care of themselves. If I'm an integral part of this team (either on the field or emotionally) and we do what we need to do to win, then I'm happy. I could say that I have a goal of gaining 1,500 yards, but winning as a team is the most important thing right now.
CC: What are your thoughts as you head into the season opener with San Jose State?
JL: It's going to be a battle out there. Those guys don't like us too much and we don't like them either. It's not a game that we can take lightly, and we can't have that mindset going in. They've beaten us before, and they have a new defensive coordinator so they'll be doing some things differently on that side of the ball. They are a good team and I respect them, but I want to get out there and hit them. As far as setting the tone for the season, I think it will be a good stepping-stone to get this ball rolling and start the season going.